What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that weakens the blood vessels that supply nourishment to the retina. In its advanced stages, the disease can cause blurred or cloudy vision, floaters, blind spots and, eventually, blindness. This damage is irreversible.
Most of the time, there are no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy until it starts to change your vision. When this happens, diabetic retinopathy is already severe.
The proliferative form is characterized by the proliferation of abnormal blood vessels which often bleed and cause scar tissue.
The non-proliferative from is characterized by leaking from the damaged areas of normal blood vessels. The leaking causes swelling and loss of vision.
Who gets diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of vision loss in adults between ages 20 and 74. The prevalence of the disease varies between those with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 diabetes.
Among people who have type 1 diabetes:
Among people who have type 2 diabetes:
How is diabetic retinopathy diagnosed?
An eye exam by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist or optometrist) is the only way to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. Having an eye exam every year can help find retinopathy before it changes your vision. If you are at low risk for vision problems, your doctor may consider follow-up exams every year. On your own, you may not notice symptoms until the disease becomes severe.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
You may not need treatment for diabetic retinopathy. Not all cases threaten the eyesight right away. You will need to see your eye doctor for regular follow-up exams.
Surgery, laser treatment, or medicine may help slow the vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy. You may need to be treated more than once, as the disease gets worse.